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Cozart green but embracing challenge at 3rd

Special to MLB.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The first time Zack Cozart played third base was Monday. He took grounders at the hot corner again on Sunday morning. Those two sessions encapsulate his career at the position.

But it's where he is slated to play this season after signing a three-year, $38 million deal with the Angels.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The first time Zack Cozart played third base was Monday. He took grounders at the hot corner again on Sunday morning. Those two sessions encapsulate his career at the position.

But it's where he is slated to play this season after signing a three-year, $38 million deal with the Angels.

"I've never touched third. At all," the career shortstop said as he prepared for Monday's first full-squad workout. "I played second for about a week in [Class] A. I've played short my whole life.

Video: Cozart discusses his experience playing third base

"There's more top spin. You have to mess with the lips. Stuff like that. The bunt plays. It's going to be a fun little challenge. I'm looking forward to it. It's tough to say until you really get out there. I just need reps. I'm sure I'll be a bit nervous over there the first couple games. We'll find out when we start games."

Cozart, 32, is coming off a career season, batting .297 with a .933 OPS, 24 home runs and 63 RBIs in 122 games for the Reds. He was a National League All-Star.

But there weren't many suitors in the market for a shortstop, or weren't teams looking to win now, like Cozart wanted.

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"The conversations are all of a sudden, 'Hey, what do you feel about playing second base?'" Cozart recalled. "And I'm like, 'Man, I feel like I'm pretty good at shortstop.'"

When Cozart agreed to the Angels' deal it was to play second. And even that didn't last long.

"I was about to get on the plane to come take my physical and I get call from [general manager Billy Eppler]," Cozart said. "He says he has a chance to get [Ian] Kinsler.

"He told me, 'If you're not comfortable with it, I won't trade for him.' ... I wasn't going to say no. I didn't want to be the guy coming into camp being the reason we nixed the Kinsler trade. I want to win; it's as simple as that."

Video: Guardado on Angels signing Cozart, him playing third

It looks like Cozart made a wise decision. Not only did he join an already talented roster that, in addition to the Kinsler trade, re-upped with outfielder Justin Upton and landed the biggest free agent of the offseason in two-way Japanese import Shohei Ohtani, but Cozart perhaps beat the market by signing in mid-December.

"Looking back on it, if for some reason I would have said no, I even talk to my agent, looking at the landscape right now, what would have happened?" Cozart said of the free-agent scene. "We don't know. ... I could be wondering who I'm going to being playing for right now, instead of just worrying about where I'm going to live."

Chris Thomas is a contributor to MLB.com based in Phoenix.

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart